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The Recycling of Plastics

On November 16, students from St. Ursula Gymnasium Freiburg visited the Faculty of Engineering within the "Schüler-Ingenieur-Akademie" program and gained an insight into polymer research at livMatS.

Nov 22, 2022

The students were able to experience firsthand in the lab how polymers are made.

The students of St. Ursula Gymnasium toured the campus of the Faculty of Engineering, before being welcomed by Master students of the research group of Dr. Céline Calvino. Calvino is a junior research group leader in the livMatS Cluster of Excellence and affiliated with the Department of Microsystems Engineering.

The students received a brief introduction on polymers, their production, possible applications and properties, and learned about different types of polymers such as thermoplastics, elastomers and duromers. They gained insight into what processing options are available, before going in the laboratory. Equipped with appropriate protective clothing, they learned how to work in a lab environment. The students were able to observe first-hand how polymers are produced and how the chemical composition influences the subsequent properties.

What Is it like to Work in a Laboratory?

An experiment showed how polyacrylamide can be produced as an example of deformable polymers, so-called elastomers. Thus, nylon threads were created from two liquids and could be wound onto a test tube. Another experiment involved the production of urea-formaldehyde resin as an example of a hard brittle polymer, so called thermosets. A final experiment involved making artificial slime, which the students remembered very well as a children's toy.

Solution for Recycling or Reusing Plastics

The day was concluded with a presentation by Calvino on the problems associated with plastics. She discussed the resulting challenges and emphasized that a conscious handling of plastics in everyday life has to be created.

The "Schüler-Ingenieur-Akademie" is a cooperation project between schools, industry and universities offered by Südwestmetall as part of the initiative "Südwestmetall macht Bildung".

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